Channel, IT management

Enter the Age of Automation

The next decade will see a significant increase in the degree of automation that is applied to business operations, requiring the convergence of IT automation, business process automation, and cognitive computing.

Integrated together, these capabilities will underpin the next wave of digital transformation, extending to a wider set of industry sectors and streamlining the creation and provision of new digital business capabilities.

IT environments have already seen an increasing degree of automation, with the aim of simplifying complex infrastructures, offsetting the potential of increased labor costs, and reducing the provisioning gap between business demand and IT supply. As cloud adoption progresses, this automated provisioning will be critical to support workload flexibility across hybrid cloud and on-premise environments.

We believe that over the next decade, automation will quickly extend into the business process layer, and then into operational decision-making. Today we are in the early stages of fully automated processes, with the adoption of software robots to augment or replace human actors in linear process scenarios. This is in some cases a substitution for the deficiencies of existing legacy systems, but is extending into a fully digital approach to a wider range of both horizontal and industry business processes.

In more complex areas of business, cognitive techniques based on machine learning are being used to build expert support systems that can augment human decision-making, and which will increasingly be embedded directly into business applications as accuracy and trust improve. The ability of these systems to extract insight from a huge volume of structured and unstructured information drastically outstrips what is possible for a human operator. The argument will continue as to how far the boundaries of automated expert decisions can or should extend, but there are already proven use cases for expert decision support in domains including healthcare and financial services.

The key for organizations will be to link these three types of automation closely together, such that cognitive decisions can dynamically create the rules that drive business processes, while new capabilities can be dynamically provisioned to a flexible and scalable infrastructure platform.

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Tim Jennings is chief research officer for Ovum IT.

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